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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Car Bomb Found in Times Square
Aired May 2, 2010 - 01:20 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we have on the phone with us, our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She is coming to us from Pensacola, Florida, down covering the oil spill. I presume, Jeanne.
But let's talk about the scene there -- hang on just a minute. We're getting her in just a moment. Right now, while we wait to get Jeanne on the phone, let's talk again about what had been transpiring in New York City.
As we just learned a few hours ago, at about 10:45 p.m. in the evening, Eastern Standard Time, there were reports coming in of a car -- that car you see right there, a Nissan Pathfinder, older model Nissan Pathfinder -- with smoke coming out the back. A police officer told the one person -- one report from the police officer that perhaps someone was seen running from that car. That's not been confirmed.
But police did bring in this robot to examine the car. Apparently, they have found propane tanks in this car, powder and an apparent timing device. No word yet on what they make of this, what the threat was to people in the area.
But certainly, this area was shut down. Police were -- people were pulled back. Theaters were shut down.
Apparently, this car was parked just outside of the theater where people would see - normally see "The Lion King." But that did not happen tonight.
Also, people know the area, very popular -- big Toys "R" Us there on the corner. That's usually bustling. That store was empty. A Marriott nearby was shut down as well. And people were pushed back as this robot was brought in to examine this car.
We have with us now, Jeanne Meserve. She is on the phone.
And, Jeanne, perhaps you could give us a larger perspective about the situation in New York. How these things are typically look into, and who looks into them in times like this, as far as the New York Police Department corresponding with homeland security?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, at this stage of an investigation like this, it is mostly likely largely in the hands of local authorities with, of course, the assistance from the FBI as Susan has mentioned. But DHS is monitoring the situation closely at this point in time to see exactly what develops here.
Of course, they'll be looking very closely at this car, any information they can get from that. They'll be looking at the license plate to see if that's of any assistance to them. They'll be doing forensics analysis of any materials that they find inside.
They'll also be going back very likely in scrubbing all the intelligence to see what they might have missed. If it was some hint that something been targeting New York City, that perhaps they were not aware of -- just as they try to go back and very carefully piece everything together here.
Of course, New York City is always regarded as target number one for any sort of terrorist activity -- Times Square, particularly iconic location. And we're always at a period of threat. Federal officials, local officials say that constantly. I'm sure as has been indicated, this is being looked at very, very carefully and very, very seriously. Back to you.
ALLEN: Well, a federal official said earlier that this was not considered a terrorist threat. The police department told Department of Homeland Security to stand down. What do you make of that?
MESERVE: Well, you -- I presume then that they have some information that we at this point are not -- are not -- are not fully aware of. That's all I can tell you.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Don Lemon joining Natalie at the international desk, at the international. We have been following this domestically as well and I'm going to jump in here, Jeanne and ask you a question because we're actually hearing that this may have started much earlier. They may have gotten wind of this at about 6:45 this evening. And according to sources, what we're hearing down at the domestic desk is that it was a mounted officer who found this and then phoned it in and that's when all of this unfolded.
MESERVE: You've got more current information than I do. I really just -- I can't comment because I don't have anything to add there, I'm sorry.
LEMON: So, listen, Jeanne, also, we're hearing that they're asking for the public's assistance in this, that city officials have been asking people to send in video, or pictures, if they hear anything, to call the police there. What are you hearing about that?
MESERVE: I'm not hearing anything about that in particular, but that would be true to form in any sort of an investigation, that they'd want to be talking to anyone who's a potential witness to anything that might have transpired there. They obviously want to get to the bottom of it. Usually, there's no better way to do it than to talk to people who have been in the area, who might have seen something out of place, someone who didn't belong. Something that was unusual.
LEMON: And, Jeanne, talk to us about this. You're a homeland security correspondent, and after 9/11 and then run-up to the war in Iraq, they've developed very special security in New York City, and especially around Times Square. It was called an operation -- I forget exactly what it is.
But they're well abreast of this. And they have the adequate resources to handle it. And it appears at this point, they're doing all that they can to keep the situation under control, using what they put in place after those events. Tell us about what's going on there now and your knowledge of this.
MESERVE: Well, yes, New York City has a very robust police department, as you know. And they have formed special teams called "Atlas Teams" that are very heavily-armed that circulate around the city and make themselves very visible on a random basis at areas that are considered to be of high potential of attack.
And they have done other sorts of things in the city -- for instance, in the subway system, which has always been considered something that's quite potentially vulnerable. They have been doing random bag searches. They have many dog teams in New York, augmented, of course, by some federal resources as well -- Don.
LEMON: Jeanne Meserve stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. Don Lemon here, as I said, at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta -- sitting alongside Natalie Allen who's been doing an awesome (ph) job of really covering the story.
Two pieces of information that I want to give you. There are reports, as we said, initial reports that came out at 6:45. We are getting word that the first report into CNN, 8:46 p.m. tonight, that is Eastern Time -- a block at Times Square has been shut down after a suspicious car fire at 45th Street and 7th Avenue. Again, police are en route, the bomb squad is responding.
And, Natalie, I'm not sure if you reported this earlier. But the White House is responding. Robert Gibbs released a statement not long ago saying that at 10:45 p.m., the president was updated on the excellent work by the NYPD in relation to the incident at the Times Square. The president commended the quick action by the NYPD and asked John Brennan to communicate to NYPD that the federal government is prepared to provide support. John Brennan is working with NYPD and others and will continue to keep the president up-to-date on the investigation.
And, Natalie, anytime something happens in New York City, especially Times Square, New York City, of course, 9/11 -- that's a sad part of the story. And then just on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. In a city that has been targeted by terrorist and targeted by bomb threats and what-have-you, this is very serious and they're taking every single precaution to see what happens.
ALLEN: Right, it happened at Times Square, New Year's as well. They investigated a suspicious van. That didn't turn into anything. So, again, they're taking this very slowly, very cautiously.
Again, we're awaiting a news conference from the New York Police Department. We're going to take you back to now to CNN's Susan Candiotti who I spoke with about an hour and a half ago who is bringing the latest from the FBI and her sources about what they know about what happened with this car tonight.
Let's listen to Susan.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): An FBI spokesman tells us that they do have a presence onsite there, as part of the Joint Terrorist Task Force. Of course, right now, even the FBI acknowledges that while the situation is obviously being taken very seriously, that there are still a lot of things to be sorted out. And that's what's happening at this time.
New York City's bomb squad has been on this case for several hours. They are still trying to figure just exactly what was causing the fire inside the car. Was there something -- obviously, the situation is suspicious. But was there something nefarious going on.
So, they're trying to work this out. As we have reported, one of our sources tells us they did find two gasoline cans -- a couple of gasoline cans in there -- a propane cylinder, among other things, and this so-called box within the box. And this box was smoking which is what caught the attention of a foot patrol officer to begin with.
So, now, it's an idea of trying to figure out just exactly what this was all about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ALLEN: And that is what we continue to wait for. Again, I'm Natalie Allen, with Don Lemon, where CNN International teaming with CNN USA to bring you more on this developing story. And it would be interesting to see what the police say because all we know is what these interesting things that were found in the car.
ALLEN: But we don't know what it means and what they've concluded.
LEMON: And, Natalie, you have worked there, I know, and I've worked there and lived in New York City, and worked as an assignment editor. And these sorts of situations, I'm not exactly sure what this will be what -- it will end up being.
But suspicious packages, all the time you hear on the police radio. And then, all of a sudden, it is waved off. So they have a number of these type incidents. But this one appears to be serious enough to get the bomb squad out there.
And apparently, when they called DCPI, which I call it, the police department there, when we called earlier, they said it was a serious enough situation obviously to get these folks out here and the bomb squad was called out. But, again, it's a very serious situation. We don't know of -- suspicious packages in New York City and any, really, major city, they happen all the time, people leave their briefcases in places, or their gym bags or what-have-you. They forget their computer, their laptop case. And that is also, those are deemed as suspicious packages.
So, we'll have to wait to see how this one unfolds. It appears though that it's more than that.
ALLEN: Burning car right there in the middle of Times Square, parked outside of the "The Lion King." They've closed the streets. They closed Broadway, between 43rd and 46th streets.
We have learned that some of the streets have reopened now. But for the most part, it kind of left the theater district a little bit of a ghost town area there tonight for several hours as people were pushed back, a hotel was shut down, restaurants, as you can imagine, as they moved in to figure out just what they had with this car. No one is around this car.
One report from an officer who told a news service that he saw someone running from the car. But that is one report. And we'll find out when the news conference begins whether that was the case.
LEMON: And we saw the guys there, the photographers and producers getting ready, and reporters, of course, getting ready for that press conference in New York City. I just want to give our viewers some information. This is according to the latest CNN/U.S. wires here. They're saying, this happened hours ago after an officer saw a smoke coming from a box inside a parked car.
Several blocks of New York's Times Square are shut down tonight and were shut down because they need to check -- the bomb squad wanted to check for explosives. We've been talking about this vehicle, Natalie, and according to a police department spokesman, this all began, the shut down after a foot patrol officer passed by a Nissan Pathfinder. And said that, noticed suspicious and called it in, and then he observed what he said was a box inside of the car with smoke coming out.
And as Natalie mentioned just moments ago, hotels, restaurants, theaters, all the businesses in the area shut down. Times Square a ghost town at this until they sort of -- until try to figure out exactly what is going on there.
But this is, you know, Friday night is a busy theater night, you know that, in Times Square. Saturday night probably even busier. And, of course, you know, the next busiest time, that matinee time tomorrow on Sunday.
So, you know, this happened when a lot of folks were out there. And if -- we're not saying that this is indeed the case. But if they are going to target -- or someone -- it's an opportune time because there are a lot of people there.
ALLEN: And we know the investigators in the past few months have thwarted possible terrorist situations in New York City and have made arrests as far as the threats from the subway system and whatnot. But, as we've mentioned, one other time, there's been a suspicious vehicle there in Times Square. Nothing turned out. But tonight, we don't know.
But, certainly, as Jeanne Meserve told us, this is one area of the country where they certainly are on high alert, and certainly doing their best, investigative work to keep with situations that they see that might not look right.
LEMON: Also, Natalie, as we wait for this press conference, a live press conference begin in New York -- I little more perspective here. I just covered the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and people, having covered that story, during the research, and spending time with people, obviously, the country is still jumpy about this -- not only in New York City but all over the country.
So, anytime there's something like that, people sort of, you know, get their ire up and they go, what is going on? And they pay attention to the news. Of course, the police department and the Department of Homeland Security all pay attention to that.
And that brings me also to this point that the Homeland Security Department, of course, is checking on this, the police department in New York City working this, along with the bomb squad. And the FBI is also on the scene as part of what we call now the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
And, again, that this according to a spokesman from the FBI telling us -- this is a quote, "Very seriously. The situation is very serious and we're taking this seriously as this plays out." So, we're going to learn more, I would imagine, from this press conference.
And, again, police probably don't want to say anything, don't want -- until they figure out exactly what it is, until they test the powder from whatever it is or test the substance on whatever it is that they found inside of this Nissan Pathfinder.
ALLEN: So, they started a few hours ago. And we're at 1:30 morning here, Eastern Time. They're already holding a news conference. So, they're not waiting too long to give us more information.
A couple other things that I found that we haven't mentioned lately, Don, is that this suspicious car had a Connecticut license plate. We have mentioning it was an older model Nissan Pathfinder, and that it first became suspicious when smoke was seen coming out the back.
They brought in the robot that you see on the screen. It popped the latch on the back of this Pathfinder. And that's when police noticed the components inside that certainly didn't seem normal.
LEMON: The propane cylinders as you said and the gas can among the items. That's what the sources are telling us. These could be supplies used by street vendors, but, Natalie, they don't know. They don't know at this point.
And we want to tell you that we're awaiting a press conference in New York City, obviously, from the police department, the bomb squad.
I would imagine in this sort of situation, you'll see the mayor. You also see the police commissioner there in New York City as well to bring us information.
And if you look at that live picture there, you see -- that is the heart of Times Square. And there is a police district right there -- a precinct right in the middle of Times Square. You see the name, New York City -- New York Police Department right behind them.
ALLEN: I'm not sure who this is that we're seeing right now. He's just helping put up a live shot with the police department. And we should know shortly. And as soon as we have an official start for this news conference, we'll make sure that we'll bring it to you.
You know, Don, some people were saying, not knowing if they --
LEMON: Let's listen in.
ALLEN: Yes, let's go ahead.
QUESTION: Guys, when we're ready to go, I'll give you a heads- up, all right?
LEMON: Can you say again? The producer is giving some information. She said this is former -- former assistant FBI director, we're told, Tom Fuentes, who will be leading this press conference. And it looks like, Natalie, again, they're just getting started here, getting their names.
OK. We're going to -- let's go to the telephone right now.
ALLEN: Tom Fuentes is with us on the phone. Sorry that we're just getting our information.
So, Mr. Fuentes, you're the former assistant director of the FBI, is that correct?
TOM FUENTES, FMR. FBI ASST. DIRECTOR (via telephone): Former assistant director of national operations for the FBI.
ALLEN: OK. Thanks very much.
ALLEN: Thank you for joining. I'm sorry about the feedback that we're getting there.
But we'd like you to give us your perspective on what you heard about the situation in New York tonight. FUENTES: Well, I think when you have a suspicious vehicle like that, the first thing they're going to do is everything they have done, seal down the area, bring in the experts to try to determine if they have a device in that car. And if so, to try to neutralize it. And then after that, of course, investigate who may have put something like that together and why.
So, at this point, the main issue is to, you know, to have the area sealed off as they have done and then try to find out what's exactly in that vehicle.
ALLEN: What do you make of what we do know, Mr. Fuentes, as far as reports that they have propane tanks, powder and an apparent timing device?
FUENTES: Well, this could be similar to the devices that were attempted to be used in London just a couple of years ago. And it ended up being a group of doctors who have placed incendiary device in the vehicle parked in front of a discotheque.
And then also, related to that case, you recall that they drove the vehicle to the glass windows at Glasgow Airport in Scotland and created an explosion at the airport going through the front doors.
So, it's not the first time that something like this has been tried. But, obviously, we've not had this in the middle of New York City before.
LEMON: Can you talk to us about what was allegedly found inside of that vehicle, Mr. Fuentes -- a propane cylinder, a gas can. But initial reports are saying that these are devices or instruments that a street vendor could use. What do you make of that?
FUENTES: Well, it's possible. I don't know, I think -- as I said, it's going to be something that you're going to have to investigate right now. So, maybe it will be a little premature to speculate what may or may not be in that vehicle. I think they just have to go through the investigation here and find out what exactly is in the vehicle.
LEMON: Can you take us behind the scenes? Because I'm sure you're involved in situations like this where the officials are preparing to talk to the media, what they're going over now, what they're checking before they make some sort of statement on this?
FUENTES: Well, I think the main thing they're going to want to emphasize is that the public is safe. You know, everybody is going to be very concerned here, obviously, the neighboring businesses, and a place like Times Square is going to be very active around the clock anyway. So, they're going to be emphasizing safety to the public and trying to reassure us that there's no device in there that can do more damage than just local damage that may have occurred.
ALLEN: In a situation like this, Mr. Fuentes, is it all the New York Police Department in the initial stages when something like this happens as far as cooperating with federal investigators? FUENTES: Well, sure. In this case, you have the first responders. There are going to be the police with their bomb squad and their technicians. And then, of course, the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes New York City police, you know, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Then, they'll be beginning a massive investigation here. What is the vehicle, who's it registered to, then try and track down from there, who parked it there and why. You know, all of the rest of the investigation would have to tick in at this point?
ALLEN: Right. Do you expect -- I mean, we're waiting for a news conference now. Do you expect it's going to be some time before they announce just exactly what they believe that, you know, what was behind all of this, and what could have been -- whether this was some sort of bomb, do you think they could find that out, determine that in this short of time?
FUENTES: They should be able to determine that pretty quickly once they look into the vehicle. So, I think once they're at that point trying to determine who parked it there, who owned the vehicle, was it a stolen vehicle, you know, where it might have been prior to that, have it come up crossing a toll bridge or in some other database entering New York, on camera. You know, they'll be looking at what kind of security cameras are in the area there to try to determine who parked that car, how long it was there.
ALLEN: Yes. I'm glad you mention that, because with the number of security cameras and videos being taken on phones, there's a very good chance that they're going to be able to dig some video up of perhaps this car being parked and who got out of it.
ALLEN: Hopefully, that will be the case.
LEMON: Mr. Fuentes, we understand that they are asking, I'm sure, this is not out of the ordinary. We hear it all the time. They're asking if anyone has any video, any pictures, they saw anything to call the police department. And that often helps in cases like this.
FUENTES: Absolutely. That will be -- exactly, they'll be trying to have the help of the public from anyone who have actually been an eyewitness to the individual who parked that car or if it was a group of individuals who got out of that car. Maybe they got into another car and have a description of that.
And again, any security cameras that may be covering that part of New York City, how long that vehicle may have been parked there. You know, information like that will be -- you know, trying to be accumulated over time right now. It will take time to put that together.
LEMON: Yes, stand by. Natalie may have a question for you.
But, Natalie, as you know -- I mean, this may be one of the most well-photographed or surveillance areas in the world because of all the cameras they have in Times Square, because of the festivities they have there, not only in New Year's Eve but throughout the year.
Mr. Fuentes, you can probably speak to that as well.
ALLEN: Yes. Perhaps you can elaborate on that as far as what is set up on any given Saturday night in New York City post-9/11 as far security and police, looking for anything out of the ordinary, knowing that very much, this area could be a target.
FUENTES: Yes. You know, the police surveillance is going to be -- is going to be heightened in an area like that all the time. Of course, it's not New Year's Eve where you a million people in Times Square, but at any given time, you do have a lot of people.
And that was similar to the London incident. That vehicle was parked in front of a discotheque and, you know, people would be coming out, a large number of people would be coming and going from that location during the late night hours, as was the case here.
So, you know, Times Square is a unique area and we'll have a population concern all hours of the day.
ALLEN: I want to point out the explosive materials were first discovered at 6:30 by a mounted police officer who saw a box of smoke pouring from -- in the back of the Pathfinder. Certainly, Mr. Fuentes, that's something completely out of the extraordinary and something that we'll find out exactly what -- what the results are. But that would certainly alert police officers in the area that something is awry.
FUENTES: Right. And they've done exactly what you would expect. Shut the area down. You know, I am sure it's not going to cause any greater danger to the public, either pedestrians walking by or nearby businesses. And then -- you know, and then start their work into what's inside that vehicle.
LEMON: Mr. Fuentes, do you mind standing by for a little bit.
We want to update our viewers if you're just tuning in to CNN. We're following breaking news of the situation happening in Times Square. Times Square is basically shut down in New York City tonight because of a -- what they're calling a suspicious package or a suspicious vehicle.
We're on the phone now with the former assistant director of national operations, Tom Fuentes, who's helping guide us through that.
And I want to tell our viewers, Natalie and Mr. Fuentes, a couple of new pieces of information. Michael Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, expected to speak very shortly at a live press conference to happen in New York City.
And we know that this area now is under security alert. And just to show just how seriously they're taking this, I want to take our viewers to Google Earth, because even on Google Earth, the Times Square district, the theater district and midtown Manhattan blurred out, you can't even see it because of that security alert.
And I, you know, my question to Mr. Fuentes would be: what does that mean, which we garner from this when this area is even -- when this area is blurred out on Google Earth because of this security alert?
FUENTES: I think they don't want you to see exactly what kind of work they're doing. And also, they're searching other parts of the area just to be safe. So, you know, they'll want their police officers checking all parked cars everywhere that they can, starting with Times Square, and then, you know, expanding circle around there.
So, you want to know that that's not the only vehicle of concern in Times Square. There might, you know, some clue checking, parking garages and alleys, and other areas near businesses which could be set on fire if incendiary device is ignited.
ALLEN: Interesting you point that out while we have this scene from earlier, Mr. Fuentes, on our screen because you can see, even though they have pushed people back, you can still cars just -- it doesn't seem very far away from the background and people moving about. I can't tell whether those are just tourists or anyone with the investigation. But it seems like, you know, they didn't close this huge area. But they centered everything around just this car.
LEMON: Yes, because you can see the vehicles, the cars, the taxicabs all moving. So, that's probably the police line, the perimeter. That's -- not probably, that is a police line in the perimeter which is I'm not exactly sure, to check out how many blocks they have blocked off in Times Square. But we know, they're probably down from 47th, maybe down to 45th Street, or 42nd Street down in Times Square that they have blocked off.
But that is a perimeter, as we, you know, say here in the business. That's as far as a pedestrian can go, and sometimes just as far as the news media can go. And then beyond that, you'll have the investigators and people like Mr. Fuentes.
ALLEN: Yes, they did block off 43rd and between 43rd and 46th Street, Broadway was closed between 43rd and 46th Streets. But we had a producer just a short while ago who told us that they had opened a couple of streets. What does that tell, Mr. Fuentes, about the fact that police have reopened some of the area?
FUENTES: Well, they must have some indication that whatever is in that vehicle is not going to cause, you know, a wide range of damage if it does ignite. So, I think that -- you know, this is something, they're looking at the vehicle. They have some indication of what's in it. They'll be doing testing around it.
And if they think it's an item that might explode, if it is propane tank or something along those lines, you know, they'll know exactly how far it would be a safe perimeter to create around that vehicle.
Something you should also know, when you have ground cameras with telephoto lenses and you see people or cars moving in the distance, it's a little bit deceptive. The view is compressed and makes the items appear closer than they are if you're using a zoom lens. So that perimeter may be a little wider than it looks through a lens.
ALLEN: Take us back to when police first sent in this robot to this car. When the car was burning, that robot was -- pop open the back. Once they secure the car, make sure it's safe, then what happened as far as personnel coming in? What's the next step?
FUENTES: Well, the robot will have, you know, video links that come going back to the investigators, so it's getting an up close look at the vehicle. Many of these robots are equipped with censors that will be doing gas testing to look for signatures of various chemical devices which would also give an indication of what they can do.
So, if the indication is, it's propane and not some greater explosive incendiary device, that will let them know that, you know, it might be a safer situation than -- if it was a bigger device.
ALLEN: Yes. What would -- can you help us differentiate propane versus something else than the differences in the possible danger?
FUENTES: Well, I'm not a real expert in all the different chemicals that they would be analyzing. But obviously, the difference between propane and a military grade explosive, you know, if it's a PETN or other devices like that, would be -- there would be a huge difference in what they be capable of doing if they went off.
ALLEN: Again, we're talking with Tom Fuentes who's the former assistant FBI director of national operations, who's helping us as we continue to bring you this developing story out of New York City, in Times Square, where many hours ago, a mounted police officer first noticed smoke coming out of the back of the old Nissan Pathfinder -- seen there to the right of your screen. It was parked right in front of the theater where many people were hoping to see "The Lion King." That didn't happen, many people holding theater tickets did not get to go to the theater, they got evacuated instead as police moved in to see what the danger might be with this car.
And again, we keep showing you the lectern there as they continue to set up for the news conference that we're expecting and we'll hope get some answers to what exactly police did or did not find within this car. And whether they had anyone involved with that car to tell us about it.
LEMON: Yes, Natalie, at that police press -- that press conference that's expected to happen at any moment now, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, will speak -- also, the police commissioner, Ray Kelly.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier was at the White House Correspondents' dinner in Washington, rushed back when he got word of this.
The White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, releasing a statement tonight, saying the president is well aware of what's going on and that he commended the great work of those -- and the New York City Police Department and bomb squad and beyond. And that he would be getting updates throughout the night at the White House if warranted.
Just to give folks a little bit of color as we take them to the ground there. Again, as Natalie said, you're looking at the lectern there where they're expected to hold that conference.
The other shot that you are seeing is really what drew a lot of people's attention, especially the news media here. When we saw and heard that the bomb squad was going out, and they were sending in that white robotic police arm that you saw on the scene there. There it is right there, it broke windows out of that black Nissan Pathfinder. It wanted to -- the bomb squad controlling it, trying to remove any explosive materials while heavily armed police and emergency vehicles shut down the city's busiest streets. It's teeming with taxis and theater-goers on what of the first summerlike days of the year.
And, again, that is according to CNN reporting and also to the "Associated Press." Investigators removed bomb-making materials, including propane tanks, explosive powders and a crude timing device. That's according to police spokesman Paul Brown. And again, this is from the "Associated Press" wire. But, again, that's what's happening in New York City live at this hour. The bomb squad, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the mayor, the police commissioner, all gathering right now to talk to the media just a few moments live to try to figure out what exactly is going on in Times Square and what exactly to report to the public, especially the citizens of New York City and the people who are visiting there and who are touring that city.
I'm Don Lemon here, with Natalie Allen. And we are teaming up, international and domestic, to report this important breaking news story for you.
ALLEN: Absolutely. Earlier, we spoke with our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, who is down on the Gulf Coast, where there's another major story, of course, developing with the oil spill. But Jeanne talked about the overall national security threat as far as how the investigators respond when things happen in New York City.
So, here are Jeanne's comments.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MESERVE (via telephone): Well, at this stage of an investigation like this, it is mostly likely largely in the hands of local authorities with, of course, the assistance from the FBI as Susan has mentioned. But DHS is monitoring the situation closely at this point in time to see exactly what develops here.
Of course, they'll be looking very closely at this car, any information they can get from that. They'll be looking at the license plate to see if that's of any assistance to them. They'll be doing forensics analysis of any materials that they find inside.
They'll also be going back very likely in scrubbing all the intelligence to see what they might have missed. If it was some hint that something been targeting New York City, that perhaps they were not aware of -- just as they try to go back and very carefully piece everything together here.
Of course, New York City is always regarded as target number one for any sort of terrorist activity -- Times Square, particularly iconic location. And we're always at a period of threat. Federal officials, local officials say that constantly. I'm sure as has been indicated, this is being looked at very, very carefully and very, very seriously.
Back to you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ALLEN: All right. Jeanne Meserve, our national security correspondent talking with us about how they typically respond to situations like this. As we've reported earlier, the police department telling homeland security that they can stand down, that they did not consider this a terrorist threat as they but investigated what they found in this car.
HOLMES: And, you know, as Jeanne spoke to us about, live, just a couple of moments ago about the precautions that they put and that plan they put place, especially after 9/11, and after the run-up to the war to Iraq. I was stationed there and saw some of the security measures. And it was thought that possibly that Times Square would be a target, especially in the run-up to that war. So they put certain majors in place. I think was Operation Atlas. I'll double-check on that for you.
But all of those things that you see when you're there for New Year's Eve, or a situation like this, those metal barricades. There's a plan that -- those are all planned to try to get people to move one way down the street and not all disperse and all run to the middle or all running together. So that people will go down the subway. Many times it will take the subway and only have it go in one direction. You can only and be uptown -- the train that's stopping won't stop. It will just -- it won't let people off, it will just let people get on the trains so that they can move out of the location.
So, it's very orderly when they do these things. If there's a city -- hopefully, just nothing happens -- there's a city that is prepared for this type of event, New York City is at the top of that list.
ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. And interestingly that you pointed out just a short while ago that you cannot go on Google Earth right now and press into this area of the city. They're not letting -- they don't want anyone to see what investigation is taking place or how they're moving around and such -- but really remarkable when you consider all the people that are there on that block. We all -- so many people have been there and know how busy it is. They evacuated thousands of people tonight that were about go into the theaters there. You know the scene on the sidewalks right before the theaters happen, but they usually happen about 8:00. This car was seen burning by a mounted police officer at 6:30. So, that's when the evacuations began. Not very clear on how much was evacuated tonight. We know that 44th -- between 44th and 49th streets were shut down between 6th and 8th avenues.
So, several blocks became completely empty tonight. There was a scene earlier of Times Square where there was simply no one there, right here on Times Square. No one in the hotels could go in and out. That very popular Toys "R" Us on corner that many people may know about, is completely empty as police checked the situation out. We're very curious to see what they have determined.
LEMON: Yes, Natalie. I'm being told by our producers we're going to now to Martina, I think it's Grimaldi. Forgive me if I said that wrong. Is that Grimaldi?
MARTINA GRIMALDI, TIMES SQUARE HILTON: Yes, Grimaldi.
LEMON: Yes. She's with the Hilton in Times Square. You're there now. So talk to us about the situation. What I'm hearing is that the hotel had to be evacuated or at least partially evacuated and it was a pretty chaotic scene that you witnessed in Times Square?
GRIMALDI: No, actually, our hotel wasn't evacuated. It was Marriott Marquis. We got a lot of calls from the people who have to leave the hotel.
LEMON: So, Marriott was evacuated and those people went to your hotel. OK.
GRIMALDI: Actually, they were actually just calling us to find out if we have rooms available. But those situations got quiet now. There was a little chaos outside in the streets. But now, it seems OK. And some people didn't know what was going on around, because the 42nd Street was open. And until they turn on the TV, I guess they -- that's how they found out what was going on, a couple of blocks away.
LEMON: And it's very interesting, Natalie, that people were calling that hotel.
And I just want to ask you this one follow-up question and let Natalie take over here. Are you -- are you giving people rooms? Because it's interesting, if there are hospitals or places that are closed, even hospitals or those kinds of things, that people can't go -- they can't get to that hotel, are you able to absorb some of these people? Are they trying to stay with you?
GRIMALDI: Actually. Tonight, most hotels are sold out as well as we are. So, actually, we can't accommodate them.
ALLEN: So, you're with the Times Square Hilton. Where exactly are you located? Was your hotel -- forgive me if you said this already -- was your hotel directly in the area that was evacuated?
GRIMALDI: We're probably three or four blocks away. We're on the 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.
ALLEN: OK. So, you just missed the evacuation by a couple of blocks.
ALLEN: What you can tell us, Martina, about what you've seen around the hotels tonight and the crowds and the situations?
GRIMALDI: Actually, I can't tell much because our lobby, our front desk is upstairs. I'm on the 21st floor, actually. So, I can't tell what's going on downstairs.
ALLEN: All right. So, you've been working inside your hotel there?
GRIMALDI: Inside the hotel, yes.
ALLEN: So, it's not a situation that everybody was going outside to see what was happening?
GRIMALDI: No. As I said, some people didn't even know what was going on. So, I guess, they'll find out once they turn on the TV.
ALLEN: Yes, absolutely.
So, for the most part, for you, just trying to handle what other people that might be needed to come to your hotel, that if they were to happen to evacuate theirs, but we still don't know about that.
GRIMALDI: Yes, they just -- we just keep getting calls about how they can get -- if they can get in a hotel, if they can get out of the hotel. But it seems that right now, there's no problem.
ALLEN: Has this been a very busy night for you, as far as tourism in New York City and people coming to the theater area?
GRIMALDI: Definitely, it's been a busy last couple of weeks. We have sold out almost every other day here.
LEMON: I was just going to say, that speaks to just how many people are in Times Square in New York this time of the year. And we are told that it was a very beautiful day in New York City. We're speaking now to a worker who works at the Hilton in Times Square, Martina Grimaldi.
And I just want to say, update our viewers because people may just be joining us.
I'm Don Lemon with CNN domestic, if you're watching internationally. I'm here with Natalie Allen. And we are teaming up to bring you this breaking news story because we don't know exactly what is going to unfold, what this is going to turn out to be in Times Square.
What we do know is that most of Times Square, the crossroads for the world, as it's called, has been shut down because of what police say is a suspicious device or suspicious vehicle. A mounted police officer earlier this evening discovered -- saw this vehicle smoking, and then called in and thought it was suspicious and the bomb squad came out and you see that white robotic arm there, dismantling that device, checking into the car and we are waiting a live press conference from the mayor of New York City and from the police commissioner of New York City at this hour.
ALLEN: It certainly has affected all of the tourists. Thousands of tourists in this area of New York this evening as we continue to bring you any details we get of this on-going investigation there in New York.
We have on the line with us Tom Fuentes.
Tom, are you still with us?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Yes, I am.
ALLEN: Tom's the assistant, former assistant FBI director of national operations, very kindly staying with us, to give us perspective on what may or may not have occurred with the components they found inside this car. What we're waiting to hear is what police think about the components which are we told, are propane tanks, powder and an apparent timing device is what police found inside this car after they sent that robot into open the latch of the Pathfinder after reports that the car was burning. No one near it.
Again, Tom, for people who are just joining us, tell us what you conclude as far as what they are looking at and what they have on their hands from what we know about this.
FUENTES: Well, at the moment, using the robot to approach the vehicle and give them video feed of what would be inside that car, as much as they can determine. If they think they have a propane device and timers and something to set it off. They've done what the right thing is, to seal off the area, get people away from it, they could be in danger and then isolate the vehicle.
Obviously if it has license plates to read and identification on it, they'll be investigating whose vehicle that is and whether it was stolen from them or how long it's been parked there, are there other vehicles in New York or other places that could be a similar, you know, make right now where they've got a device inside of it and they'll be trying to look at what may have been the intent here. Is it possible, if it is an explosive device and if it wasn't a timed device that the individual might have had set to go off later in the evening and maybe intended the theater to be full and then phone in a threat causing the theater to empty, pedestrians to be out on the streets in large numbers and then detonate it after doing something like that.
I mean, those are all worst case scenarios of what may be involved. I don't know if, you know, I have not confirmed myself that they do have wires and timers and propane device but if that's what's being reported from the police and you know, certainly they're going to be continuing the investigation as to who may have done it. If there's an innocent reason that something improper was left in the vehicle, not stored correctly and if the (INAUDIBLE) of smoke can cause this incident, you know, it would be a much different story. But again, that's going to depend on exactly what is inside that car and how they want to attempt to neutralize it.
ALLEN: Absolutely. I hope that's the case.
LEMON: Well, Mr. Fuentes, please standby. We really appreciate you guiding us through this. I want to say the Mr. Fuentes is a former assistant FBI director national operations and he's joining us to help us get through this. If you are in the New York City area and maybe many of our viewers nationally or internationally will know Lou Palumbo. He is a long-time New York City security expert. He's also a former police office.
Mr. Palumbo, you have sources there in New York City, in the police department, what are you hearing tonight?
LOU PALUMBO, NEW YORK CITY SECURITY EXPERT (via telephone): Well, basically that they're treating this with the highest level of viability. I mean, the fact that they found a device rigged with propane, for example, makes them realize that there could be a considerable amount of damage cause if that were to detonate. I think they realized that they probably have something that's the real deal this time.
By this time in the evening, you can image they're run the registration on this vehicle and they've already identified it's owner, if it's properly registered and it's running to piece this together. The fact that this is going on for eight hours, for example, means that this is probably the real deal. If you recall recently and I say this with the kindest possibly way, we had another incident like this where a vehicle was left unattended for a considerable amount of time, one of the problems you have here tonight is that this is probably (INAUDIBLE) Friday night, one of the densely populated places in the world by pedestrians.
The other issue here that makes this extremely sensitive is that a device with propane could cause a cataclysmic explosion using other vehicles in the area, the stores which are commercial would blast and other materials creating secondary projectiles if this were to detonate, giving this the utmost credence (ph) which is the absolute proper way to do this. I would say - I mean, I do see a lot of people walking in somewhat relatively close proximity of this vehicle (INAUDIBLE) and I just think that you know, they are systematically going to continue until they are comfortable that they can neutralize whatever device this is.
You know, to go back to the Morrow Building and in that instance, McVeigh use a rather large weathered truck which almost blew down a building. So you can imagine what a vehicle with propane (INAUDIBLE) ALLEN: Lou, sorry to interrupt but if you can just standby just for a moment, we have some new information so we want to bring in our Homeland Security correspondent, Jean Meserve, who is in Pensacola.
Jeanne, what do you know about the investigation into what happened here tonight?
MESERVE (via telephone): Well, they're still very much in the mode of doing forensics to figure out exactly what they're dealing with here, in this automobile that appears to be a potential incendiary device but I have been told by a federal law enforcement official that the plates on this vehicle do not match the vehicle itself, a disconnect there as they of course have tried to track down exactly who might own this vehicle and what it's doing there. They discovered that the plate and the vehicle do not match.
In addition, a Homeland Security Official tells me that Secretary Napolitano was briefed on the situation earlier this evening. The department at this point is very much in a monetary mode, state and local officials are primarily handling this at time point with input from the FBI, DHS is in the position of sharing information with other entities as necessary.
At this time, no bulletins or anything of that sort have gone out but of course, they have an operation center there that's operational 24/7 and it's up and running tonight. They monitor this situation from afar as New York officials and the FBI tried to get to the bottom of what they're dealing with but the headline that the car and the license plate do not match.
ALLEN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you, Jeanne. Yet another sign that something isn't right.
LEMON: Something's (INAUDIBLE) here
ALLEN: -- with this car.
LEMON: When that doesn't happen. Hey, Lou Palumbo, sorry to interrupt you. We wanted to get that new information in and you being a security expert, what are your thoughts on this? The license plates don't match.
PALUMBO: Well, I'll just mention prior to this interview the fact that they run this registration and something isn't adding up. And in my opinion, I'm shooting from the hip, I think they got the real deal going on right now. You know, as you are all well aware. Times Square's not exactly the place that's friendly to parking vehicles because of the whole, how would you say, infrastructure there.
LEMON: You cannot drive down anymore in the middle of Times Square, 7th Avenue and Broadway.
PALUMBO: No, you can't. That's exactly correct. As you know, we tried to make this more pedestrian friendly. That's been the plan of the mayor, supported and implemented by the police commissioner Ray Kelly. I think the concern that they got the real deal. I also think that under the circumstances, after inspecting this through the robot and I haven't had the good fortune to know if they walked any dogs on this vehicles because that would detect that different types of explosives.
You have to realize, propane cylinders are not a conventional type of explosive that you can put on (INAUDIBLE) of like a C4. In any case, I think they are comfortable in what they're doing. The fact that this has gone on for eight hours and then they're comfortable having mitigated this problem up to this point, I'm telling you I think we have something here that's legitimate and I think you're going to continue to see this play through the night and you know, we better have to stay on top of it and I think they're going to do that.
LEMON: Hey, Lou, you've been doing this for a long time and I just, you know, my juices are flowing here now and it's going to back again, right after 9/11 and it is Operation Atlas (ph) said earlier that was put into place right after 9/11 and what do that mean, it was a $5 million project per week that it costs the city then. I'm not sure how much it's costing now but what they put into place were increased police presence at Manhattan bridges and tunnels, bomb sniffing dogs and radiation detectors used to screen vehicles. Inspection are random, vans, trucks, all these types of things.
And they were guarding all of the sites, the major sites around New York City. And again, this was very expensive for the city but they had to take on this operation. So it's not surprising that a mounted police officer would find something wrong or would see or would spot something wrong and then have attention, you know, being drawn to it and then possibly stop a terrorist attack.
Female: We also have on the line with us Tom Fuentes, who has been with us - former assistant FBI director of national operations.
Tom, let's talk about what Lou just pointed out and the fact that it's very hard to get to this area with the care and find a place to park and the fact that this Nissan Pathfinder was parked right in front of the "Lion King" Theater. That just doesn't add up, correct?
FUENTES: Actually, I'm not familiar with the parking arrangements or requirements in front of that theater so -
LEMON: I think Lou, Lou Palumbo probably still - is Lou still on the line?
PALUMBO: I'm right here.
LEMON: Lou, we were talking about the parking situation there and we're talking about and this part of the questions put into place.
PALUMBO: That's 42nd Street and the "Lion King" is currently in the (INAUDIBLE) if my recollection is correct. And they really (INAUDIBLE) any facilitation to park on 42nd Street or stop in front of that theater. That's the midtown (INAUDIBLE) and it just doesn't lend itself to abandoning a vehicle like this. You have to add all the sum of all parts and I think they feel it's a legitimate attempt to (INAUDIBLE) detonate this device. In this case, it's going to be considered incendiary because of the nature of propane and its propellant.
But it's not adding up for them and that's why this has been going on for (INAUDIBLE)
LEMON: I have to ask you this, Lou, knowing you and you're saying that you definitely think this is the real deal and there are probably things beyond what the average law enforcement person would know about this. Are you hearing anything from sources. What leads you to believe that this is a real deal?
PALUMBO: The fact that this has done on for over eight hours now and the fact that they've been forthcoming in identifying the fact that the propane cylinders were located in the vehicle. In other words, as I've mentioned to you earlier, if they walk the dog on this car, for example, to see if they can pick up trace of a conventional explosive, like the C4 or any of the high grade, it would have given the dog a positive hit.
What they've done here is they've located a very dangerous element, propane gas, that could cost a cataclysmic explosion in Park Square and they've located a means in which they feel that could detonate it. I think that they've got something here and I think that they know that and again I go back to saying it's the sum of all parts. They've located where the car has been left, the vehicle left abandoned in one of the most densely populated nights with tourists and visitors, not only from abroad but even domestically. It's outside the Lion King where it's probably sold out as it normally is.
And it's a place that lends to someone just pulling up with a vehicle and walking away. That's not what we have here tonight. And that's what (INAUDIBLE) so uncomfortable. And I tell you, they probably believe they got something here. The rest of this now is going to be an exercise and they will locate whose vehicle this is and I guarantee you they will find out who did this. There's going to be enough forensics there that are going to give the police body of leads who is behind this. I think they got a big problem tonight.
Female: Lou, thanks. And yes, we should point out that this has been on-going for eight hours now when they first realized that a mounted police officer saw that a car was burning.
If you're just joining us, our CNN international viewers or domestic, we're going to bring you the latest on the Times Square lockdown that has been going on this evening. We've been bringing you this breaking news of an investigation underway that continues at a New York City landmark here at Times Square. Streets normally field with tourists and theater goers have been cleared several blocks, cleared for many hours tonight as the police, bomb squad investigated the contents of a suspicious Nissan Pathfinder. You can barely see in the corner of your screen.
A law enforcement source has told us that propane cylinders and a gas can were among items police found inside this burning car. The FBI also on the scene as part of the joint terrorism task force. Also we learned this evening that President Barack Obama who was attending the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington was updated on the situation.
And of course, the White House saying the federal government is prepared to provide support. They put out a statement saying that and we are right now awaiting a news conference on what police have learned or what they are going to tell us at this moment. This is the - where the news conference will be coming, as you can see they've been setting up (INAUDIBLE) it's been over 35, 40 minutes, we've been waiting for the news conference to begin (INAUDIBLE) what to make of that.
LEMON: Yes, and maybe even a little longer than that but again, you know, as we talked to Tom Fuentes and we talked to Lou Palumbo there, this is also an indication that you guys being on law enforcement, you know, if it's taking you this long perhaps they could be waiting for the mayor to get back from the White House Correspondents' Dinner in the northeast by train, by car, by airplane. It's a very, very short run for the mayor to get there.
So listen, Mr. Fuentes, what do you make of this. What do you make of the time -- by the way, before I go to Mr. Fuentes. Hey, Lou, it's at the Minskoff Theater, that's where the "Lion King" is. What is that? Is that 45th?
PALUMBO: Yes, that's correct.
LEMON: 45th Street. So what do you make, Mr. Fuentes, of how long it is taking here and take us behind the scenes of what law enforcement is doing to gather information and to bring information to the public.
FUENTES: Well, as Lou mentioned, the critical factor here is who owns that vehicle or who controlled that vehicle. If it was stolen from somebody, if the license plates don't match the vehicle that's parked there and then they're going to have to try and determine if they can read the vehicle identification number off of that and or trace that way through the DMV records and determine if any vehicle like that has been reported stolen or if not stolen who actually is the owner and they'll be investigating from that standpoint.
Again, they'll be looking all over New York City in case there are other vehicles parked that could also contain this kind of device. I'm sure they're reviewing the incident that happened in London a couple of years ago where a similar vehicle was parked in front of a discotheque with the intent to detonate propane tanks obviously, for a crowded disco goers late in the evening and then later in connection with that case, one of the doctors involved in it drove a vehicle through the front windows at Glasgow Airport in Scotland, a short time later.
So they'll be looking at whose involved in this, starting with that vehicle, obviously it's all that they can go on in the beginning and then again reviewing security cameras, any eye witnesses that may call in, asking for information about who may have parked that vehicle there, especially if the vehicle is parked illegally and that would be another factor here if the person tries to park a vehicle in front of the theater, there's no way they're going to get away with that.
The police are going to immediately be suspicious of it and if they don't see something smoking in the vehicle at the very moment, they're going to tow it away. So that's another factor here as to where exactly was that vehicle parked in terms of the theater or in terms of pedestrians and in terms of whether it's legal and would attract police attention just by itself.
Female: Well, as you mentioned earlier Tom when we were talking to you, that with all the security cameras in this area that at some point if they haven't seen it already, they know who parked this car and hopefully found some sort of surveillance video or otherwise but we do want to point out, if you're just joining us that our security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve just reported that the plates do not match up with the registration, with the plates that are on this car. It has Connecticut place but apparently, there are reports that those plates belong to a Ford F150. So certainly something not right there. So that's where we are sitting in this story as we wait exactly what the police are saying.
LEMON: Listen, this next piece of information we're going to talk about, Lou Palumbo, pay close attention to this because I was to take our viewers to Google Earth. There's the security alert happening in Times Square, specifically the theater district and 45th Street between 7th and 8th avenues is exactly where this suspicious care where an officer, a mounted officer came upon.
It is blurred out in that area. Standby. We're going to New York City now. Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the podium, getting ready for a press conference, Lou and Tom, standby we're going to listen in to the mayor of New York City right now.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Well, good morning. I'm joined by Governor Paterson and city council speaker Christine Quinn, police commissioner Kelly, fire commissioner Casano, FDNY chief of department Ed Kidluff, FBI Assistant Special Agent in charge Stephen Buccard (ph), chief of department Joe Esposito, chief of detectives Phil Pulaski, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen, bomb squad commanding officer Mark Torre and Office of Emergency Management deputy commissioner John Scrivani.
Before I begin, let me say, that we are very lucky, thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a deadly event. I'm going to begin by telling you what we know and what we don't know.
At about 6:30 this last night, an alert t-shirt vendor who is a Vietnam veteran noticed and unoccupied suspicious looking vehicle on 45th Street, just off 7th Avenue, a few block from where we are standing. He alerted police officer Wayne Rattigan of the NYPD mounted unit, who was on his horse, Migs, patrolling Times Square.
Officer Rattigan saw the vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder which had smoke emerging from vents near the back seat and he also smelled gun powder. He with the help of police officers assigned to operation impact. Immediately evacuated the area and called for the fire department and more police. Fire fighters, emergency service officers and the bomb square responded and the bomb squad confirmed that the suspicious vehicle did contain an explosive device. There were gas cans and bomb making material in the car. The experts at the bomb squad are removing them as we speak.
Who abandoned the car and why are under investigation by the NYPD. Commissioner Kelly will fill you in on the details but I want to thank the professionals at the NYPD and the FBI as well as the Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management for their work tonight but most of all, the alert vendor and officer Rattigan of the mounted unit. You know, we often say that when a terrorist is caught, he has a map of New York City in his pocket and that's a conversation I had earlier tonight in Washington. And tonight is a further reminder of the dangers that we face. Commissioner Kelly.
COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. The NYPD bomb squad has rendered safe an improvised car bomb discovered earlier this evening inside a dark green Nissan Pathfinder parked on 45th Street and Broadway, with the engine running and hazard lights flashing. NYPD bomb technicians have remove and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two five-gallon gasoline containers filled and a (INAUDIBLE) along with batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire and other components stored in the rear of the vehicle.
In addition, a 2x2x4 foot, locked metal box resembling a gun locker has been recovered from the vehicle. The bomb squad ins in the process of rendering it safe. It will be removed to our range at (INAUDIBLE) in the Bronx for detonation. At approximately 6:30 this evening as the mayor said, NYPD mounted officer was notified by a street vendor of a possible car fire, a smoking vehicle and went to investigate. After observing white smoke billowing inside and coming out of the rear of the vehicle, he and two impact police officers on patrol in the area began to clear pedestrians from the vicinity while radioing for further assistance.
Visual examination of the vehicle by the responding agencies, the fire department and police department revealed a suspicious looking components in the rear of the vehicle. It has tinted windows and was parked approximately 10 feet from the corner on 45th Street, in front of the Bank of America. the Connecticut license plate on the rear of the vehicle does not match the vehicle and investigators have spoken to the individual to whom the plates are registered.
The vehicle is seen at 6:28 p.m. on NYPD surveillance camera traveling west, on 45th Street. We're in the process of identifying additional cameras which may have captured images of the vehicle and more important people seen driving or leaving the vehicle. The NYPD, FBI, and other authorities are actively pursuing all investigative leads. At this time, we encourage anyone with information to call our tips hotline. That's 1-800-577-TIPS.
From 43rd Street to 48th Street, between 6th and 8th Avenues are closed at this time to pedestrian and vehicle traffic. We expect that they will be re-opened soon and we certainly appreciate the public's cooperation. We did evacuate the south tower of the Marriott Tower. Those people that are in the auditorium in the hotel and we hope to have them get back in their rooms shortly. Mr. Mayor.
BLOOMBERG: Be happy to take any questions if anybody has any?
Yes? Speak up. We can barely hear you.
BLOOMBERG: (OFF-MIKE) no cameras so far. We are looking at all of the cameras in the area. It will take many hours. So far we have no reports of anybody running away. Nothing on the camera yet. That doesn't mean that there won't be when we look at all the cameras but so far we do not see anybody running away. We do not know who drove the car or when they left the car. Sir.
BLOOMBERG: It was made up of consumer grade fireworks that you can buy in Pennsylvania and drive into New York and the wiring was nothing that look amateurish, I think is the nice way to phrase it. Sir.
We can't hear you.
BLOOMBERG: What, we can't hear you. You have to speak up. Sorry.
BLOOMBERG: That's correct.
BLOOMBERG: There is no BIN number. Nothing. Yes. Been removed. Miss.
BLOOMBERG: We have no idea who did this or why and until you find out we can't say anymore than that. Yes, sir. Say again.
BLOOMBERG: Well, there were three propane tanks and two containers of gasoline and it certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact. It depends on how close you were to it at a time. Anything else? Say again.
We always change our security plans and we certainly are not going to announce them. We have look around other boroughs tonight just to make sure we kept the 4:00 to midnight tour on duty and they found nothing suspicious in any other borough and they'll be sent home very soon. Yes.
BLOOMBERG: I just said we asked everybody. All our police officers to keep, stay on another shift. Keep the shift late. They looked every place and there's nothing suspicious. This is a city of 8.4 million and people should go about their business. If you see something strange, pick up the phone and call 9/11 and turn it over to professionals and that's exactly what happened here.
You had a vendor who saw something, thought it was strange, said something to a police officer on his horse. The police officer looked and then the professionals took over. And that's why nothing happened. Yes, miss.
BLOOMBERG: Miss, we have no idea who did this. As I said before, we have nothing to go on yet. First thing is to make sure that everybody is safe and then we'll do our investigation Yes, miss.
BLOOMBERG: We - our staffs were in touch with the White House and the other intelligence agencies while Ray and I were on our way back here.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) is that part of the investigation.
BLOOMBERG: We'll always look at where it is. There is no evidence that it's tied to the army recruiting or the VIACOM or to anything else. It was in an intersection, a block north of where we are and you can see what is in the neighborhood.
Anything is possible. We just don't know. Yes, miss. Last question.
BLOOMBERG: The plates we are told. We've interviewed the person who had the plates. The person said they sent the trucks that the plates were on to a junkyard. We're trying to identify the owner of the junkyard to see what happened but there's no reason that person, no reason to suspect that he had anything to do with it or that his story is false. To your last question.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) video of the truck moving at 6:28 p.m.?
BLOOMBERG: I don't -
KELLY: Seen in the video?
KELLY: It's not that clear. We'll try to enhance that picture but all you'll see is a vehicle which we believed it to be. We're not 100 percent certain but it's a Nissan that appears to be a green Nissan going across the intersection, not at this juncture clear enough to see how many people are in the vehicle. It has tinted windows. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) How many minutes?
KELLY: The call was made to 9/11 at 6:34 and the vehicle was seen about 6:28.
BLOOMBERG: Last question.